Freakishly Warm

Essex Farm Note

Week 50, 2015

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Are we really this close to the close of the year? The light is thin, the calendar is on its final page, but the fields are green instead of white. Yesterday, I opened the door to the porch to let the sun stream in, and the cluster flies thought it was spring, and woke to buzz around and bash themselves against the window panes. Outside, it topped out at 60 and sunny. Miranda was home from school with a cold, but nobody can feel too sick on such an afternoon, so we tacked up Trigger and took a ride around the farm, marveling at the cover crops, still growing, the hens, still foraging, their triclawed feet scratching bugs from the soft ground. There is no frost coming for the next six days. No frost! Not even close – the lowest low predicted is 37 degrees. Weird as it feels, we’ll take it. It makes the winter work so much easier, and the animals are more comfortable, and require much less hay. We are using less bedding, too. The dairy cows are back on pasture this week, basking in the afternoon sun and cropping the last bits of grass from the field.

The newest New York Mesonet weather station, installed right here at Essex Farm, is now online. Go to http://www.nysmesonet.org/mesonow and click the Essex spot on the map of New York to see current data, which includes air temperature, wind speed, soil temperature at three depths, dew point, pressure and solar radiation. It’s almost unbearably exciting to weather-obsessed farmers like us. The live camera shows a view of Paddock 2, looking north toward Blockhouse Road. Local forecasts should be better now that we have local data.

We said goodbye to Clara this week. She was the nearly-black Jersey cow with pretty, curving horns. She came here in 2006, and she was pregnant with her second or third calf when she arrived, which means she was at least 13 years old, and maybe older, but we tended to forget it because she never looked her age. Personality-wise, she had her quirks. She didn’t get on well with other cows, was pushy with her horns, and had the quickest hind foot in the herd. Back when we milked by hand, she held the record for the most kicked-over buckets. But she gave us so much beautiful milk. She calved last week, and went down with milk fever the following night, despite a prophylactic dose of calcium. Milk fever is an acute drop in blood calcium that can happen when a cow freshens, and older Jerseys are especially prone to it. When Lindsey found her in the morning, she was lying flat and pretty close to dead. A dose of calcium revived her, but she stumbled in the barn, and went back down. After that she never recovered enough strength to stand, so after four days of coaxing and massaging her, we decided to put her down. Thank you, Clara, for your good milk and for your daughters, who will carry on your line. And that’s the news from Essex Farm for this freakishly warm 50th week of 2015. -Kristin & Mark Kimball

 

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The rams are in with the flock now. They have red paint — raddle powder — on their chests, so when they mount the ewes, they leave a red spot on their backs. That’s how we know they have been bred. This one has a red head. The rams were young, and perhaps confused.

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This week, we switched to green raddle powder, so we can see how many ewes were not bred the first time around. Also, because fluffy white sheep with green and red butts are as close as we can get to decorating the fields for the Christmas season.

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